GOTHAM Showrunner Bruno Heller on First Season Expectations

Gotham images from Jock
Credit: DC Comics

The premiere of Gotham is just a couple of weeks away. While we've seen it (and will post a review later), the pilot opens as many doors, and asks as many questions as it answers about the direction of the series.

Who better to ask than Bruno Heller, the showrunner for Fox and WBTV's venture? In a conference call with Heller, members of the press talked things over, finding out what to expect in season one.

Joanna Wolf from Fox starting things off noting the premiere on Monday, September 22.

From there, Bruno Heller was introduced and started taking questions.

The first question was about the high quantity of characters in the pilot, and if the future episodes will have that many featured.

"Obviously the demands of opening big means we frontload it with a lot. Going forward we won't do villain of the week, it would be short changing them. Other iconic characters will be introduced, but in a more gradual way."

What's the mood in the writer's room and on set in anticipation of the premiere?

"One of the keys of my job is to not let the hoopla of what's off the set affect what's going on on the set. We're trying to make the best show we can. The anticipation and the marketing is another world inside the world we live in daily."

DCComics.com asked the next question, asking how much of Gotham City will be explored and how it shapes the story.

"Very much so. It's an urban story, it's about city life. Gotham is a dreamworld that everybody shares. Everyone has a vision of Gotham in their minds. You have to create a 3-Dimensional world that's believable but also has those fantastic elements. We think of New York in the 70s when it was gnarly and dark, but sexy and charismatic. The show very much relies on that believable but fantastic world. It allows the actors inside that city to be a notch up. it's both real and slightly surreal. That means you have a broad and powerful canvas to work off. Gotham is a central character, it's not an accident we called it Gotham."

From BusinessInsider: As a prequel series, what inspiration are you drawing from?

"To me, the immediate attraction of this story was precisely the chance to tell origin stories. Those are the aspects of superhero legends I enjoy the most. This is a world that everyone knows. Everyone knows who Batman is and who the Riddler and the Joker are. Telling their adult stories is hard to find a fresh way in. This way you get to learn how things got the way they are. it's like seeing pictures of your parents before you were born, there's something intrinsically fascinating about it."

Batman-News.com was next. They asked how shows like Arrow and Smallville had an impact on a show like Gotham (thanks to their success).

"Yes, the shows you mentioned are WB shows and the DC Universe is very much a part of WB culture. I was talking with DC for many years before we got to this point and landed on Gotham. Ten years ago, this wouldn't be possible. I think it's partially the brilliance of what the Nolans did to revitalize the Batman franchise, and also the shows you mentioned. I'd say the difference between those shows and this one is that there are slightly different demands here, due to the network. This has to appeal to an even larger audience. It has to appeal to people who love Batman and Gotham and that world, and also to people who you just have to grab on the strength of the story and the characters."

Asked about the new style of television that companies like Netflix are propagating, Heller said that it's all good for TV, but he "isn't the person to ask about business."

Uproxx.com asked about how they decide what elements to take from the comics and what to do new.

"It's tricky - you can't just create a new character with that name, but if you're just showing the same character they've seen before you're failing the audience." He said that characters need to have their comic book roots, but then have a shift to make them a bit more realistic. "Penguin's a young man, striving and struggling, and hungry. That's going to be a very different character from who he is once he's reached some of his goals in life. We work very closely with Geoff Johns at DC to make sure we're not betraying the essence of who these people are."

Washington Post asked about the process of leading a character to an eventual destiny that you already know the end piece to.

"It's about reverse engineering the characters enough, but at the same time making that journey as long and interesting as possible. You can't start with fully fledged characters. To me, that's the fun of the show, both making it and watching it, I hope! It's seeing them as young people and how they're going to change over time, giving them space to grow. A lot of the challenge with TV as opposed to making movies is you have to leave room for the characters and the stories themselves to grow. It's sort of how novelists say the book starts to write itself, the character starts to tell their own story. We have broad arcs set, but you have to leave room for these characters to live and breathe."

SciFiVisions asked about a favorite scene from the pilot.

"I very rarely watch the first few episodes of a series with glee - I tend to see the things I wish we'd done differently. This, i thought it was all gripping. My favorite scene is that opening sequence - it played out pretty much exactly as I'd seen in my imagination. Also the scene in the pilot with Penguin and Gordon on the waterfront has such cinematic juice that you can rarely achieve on TV. Two great actors really bringing it and a director really catching it."

Hypable.com asked about characters in the comics that they knew from the beginning they would not want on the show.

"There are certain characters that would be very difficult to put on the screen. That Crocodile guy is a tough one, but we may go there. We haven't excluded anyone from the potential mix. We're looking for characters with a drama and story about how they got where they are. We're also looking for characters that can live in the real world of Gotham. It's not about superpowers, it's about super will if you like."

SFX Magazine asked about the choice of Sean Pertwee as Alfred and the different presentation of that character, and the conflicting father figures between he and Gordon.

"I wouldn't say he's the bad father, but he's certainly the permissive father. Sean brings a strength, but also a sense of irony; in order for Bruce to turn into Batman, Alfred had to be an enabler there. They made a pact, whether spoken or not, that it would be allowed. So he has a danger to him, he's a good loyal caretaker but has his own sense of rage inside him. That's what Sean does so brilliantly."

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